MLA chief heads for New Zealand

The chief executive of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) is to leave his post at the end of May to become director of the Auckland War Memorial Museum in New Zealand.

Roy Clare's move comes as the MLA's transfer of key responsibilities to Arts Council England is confirmed for 1st October. Corporate services director Paul Lander will take charge of the body in the last months as it moves towards closure.

Clare, who has led the organisation since 2007, has faced strong criticism from library campaigners during his tenure, and particularly over councils' library closure proposals in recent months. His description in December of Oxford council's plans to stop funding nearly half its libraries as "political courage" was termed "extraordinary" by campaigner Desmond Clarke, while Independent literary editor Boyd Tonkin numbered Clare among the "appeasers" in the national struggle to save the library service.

But MLA chair Andrew Motion paid tribute to Clare's "amazing transformation" of the MLA and to the "exceptional blend of diligence and consideration and visionary clarity that he brought to his work". In a message to staff, Clare said signs for the handover to the Arts Council were "promising", with ACE showing "great enthusiasm for the task and considerable skill in managing recent decisions about funding for the arts".

The former admiral added that he was looking forward to delivering an "ambitious plan of action" for the Auckland museum, saying: "Auckland is a vibrant, confident place with international prestige and a global perspective."